Review by Camden Ferrell
A Dog’s Death is the first film from Matías Ganz. It is a noble first attempt from the promising Uruguayan director, but it’s a film that is heavily flawed. Despite a really intriguing set up, this movie doesn’t quite stick its landing and may leave viewers feeling underwhelmed.
This movie follows a middle-aged, upper middle-class couple as they transition into a new part of their lives. Silvia is entering retirement while Mario is continuing his work as a veterinarian. After an unfortunate mistake occurs with a dog under his care, paranoia consumes both of them as they become more and more restless and impulsive in their lives. This is a really interesting premise that has a lot of potential for unique and unpredictable storytelling.
Ganz does a phenomenal job in the first act of his film. He delivers a perfect set up for what could have been a thrilling conclusion. He has a mature understanding of timing and execution in these moments. He was able to create a restless atmosphere while also capturing some more mundane ennui and curiosity. He demonstrates an understanding of the fundamentals of filmmaking, and it definitely suggests strong potential.
The acting in this movie is more or less agreeable. Guillermo Arengo does a solid job playing Mario. He is able to capture the persona of someone of his stature well while also portraying a unique blend of paranoia and passiveness. However, I believe Pelusa Vidal gives a great performance as Silvia. It’s interesting to see her go through the motions of retirement while also exhibiting similar symptoms of paranoia as her husband.
The movie has glimmers of genius throughout. The way it raises the stakes and furthers its plot is really interesting, but its flaws come after those moments. It doesn’t follow up these great moments with what is expected, and it comes off as mildly underwhelming at times. There are some truly shocking moments in this movie that are nerve-wracking, but the movie doesn’t fully exploit its strongest characteristics.
It also feels slow considering the movie is under 90 minutes. Some scenes definitely last too long, and others feel completely unnecessary. A lot of its screen time is used on moments that are so long that the tension starts to falter. There was a lot of story to tell, and there was a lot of themes and ideas that could have used more exploration, but the movie didn’t seem to allocate its time to its fullest extent.
Regardless, this movie is still fairly entertaining. It goes from violent to absurd in a matter of minutes, and this is more or less what the movie should have doubled down on. It’s engaging, and it keeps the audience guessing. It’s a great premise with some cool moments that should have been executed a little better.
Ganz’s first feature suggests a bright future for a director who is still learning. It also can serve as an exercise in crafting a minimalist thriller. It has some great scenes but ultimately fails to deliver on the promise of its premise.
A Dog’s Death played at the 2020 Slamdance Film Festival which ran January 23-30 in Park City, UT.